THE umbrella organization of exporters in Cebu welcomes the Senate’s promise to fast-track the passage of bills that promote market competition and enhance trade facilitation, saying this will help players become more competitive and secure a solid footing in the Asean global trade.
Senate President Franklin Drilon is eyeing the passage of the Fair Competition Act this June, after the Senate has approved its version of the bill.
“This is timely news as we are moving into full integration of Asean. The Philippines has never had a policy on fair competition. That is why we have so many monopolistic institutions, cartels and powerful business blocs,” Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (Philexport) Cebu executive director Fred Escalona said Monday.
Once the bill is enacted into law, the measure will promote economic efficiency in trade, industry and commerce through the prohibition of anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant positions and anti-competitive mergers.
“The passage of the competition law, which we expect by June of this year, will ultimately bring about a dynamic, sustainable, inclusive economic growth and national progress,” said Drilon during the Arangkada Forum held in Manila.
According to Escalona, a competition law and policy has already been drafted by Asean Economic Community, which has provisions to protect the consumer from powerful business blocs and benefit them in terms of better pricing and improved quality of products they buy.
“I am excited about the passage of this act. However, the implementing commission should be under the wings of the Department of Trade and Industry and not the Department of Justice,” said Escalona.
“We must put an end to market price manipulation, market distortions and constriction of operation by smaller players who have no chance against big business and cartels,” he added.
Two prominent economists in the country who visited Cebu last year were urging local business players in the Visayas to back the passage of the competition bill.
Of the 10 member-countries in the Asean region, countries like the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar don’t have specific competition legislation yet.
“We are lagging behind top Asean countries in terms of having a good and strong competition law. This law is important because it levels the playing field, protects consumers and eliminates monopolies and cartels,” said Gilberto Llanto, president of the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (Pids).
Llanto noted foreign investments in the Philippines will grow if there is a fair business environment. This will also help micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) compete with large enterprises and stay competitive among their Asean peers.
Cielito Habito, also an economist, stressed the importance of having a competition law to attain a more inclusive growth. This will also strengthen the country’s footing in the Asean economic landscape.
“This law is important for a country that lacks inclusive growth because it will level the playing field, thus, allowing small players to also attain business growth,” said Habito.
Aside from passing the Competition Bill, Drilon said the Senate also intends to pass other measures that will support the country’s thrust towards increased competitiveness.
These include the creation of two new offices: a Philippine Trade Representative Office which will serve as the country’s central agency tasked to formulate a cohesive trade strategy; and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to support the development of ICT systems.